Last Sunday there was a baby dedication at the church we attend. For anyone unfamiliar with this procedure I’ll explain: it’s like a christening, but without water and without any assertion that the child is now part of the Church and therefore assured a place in heaven. Basically, the baby is presented to the congregation, and the parents (and sometimes the congregation) promise to teach the child about the Christian faith and bring him or her up in it. But, although we as parents and friends can influence a child, we have no control over their decisions, as many have painfully experienced.
During the dedication, the pastor – quite rightly in my opinion – said that even though the parents were promising to bring the baby up in the Christian faith there were no guarantees that this child, as he (it was a boy) grew older, would actually decide to believe in God for himself.
Now this got me thinking because, if you believe there is no guarantee of your child affirming your faith, and that unbelievers “go to hell” after death and judgement, and that hell is a place of “eternal conscious torment”, why on earth would you have children?
That brings me back to Calvin, but the question extends to all who believe in hell for unbelievers, “eternal conscious torment” and – as the TULIP summary of Calvinistic doctrine has it – limited atonement, i.e. no guarantees of salvation for any given person – they must be amongst the elect and only God decides who they are.
Surely if you believe this you would not bring into the world a child who might one day die without believing and spend all eternity in torment!
I mentioned this to our youngest daughter the other day and she asked me what we were thinking when we decided to have children. I replied that we weren’t thinking about this and perhaps that’s the answer to why Calvinists have children: they haven’t thought through the implications of their beliefs. Either that or they are uncaring, or like the odds of their children actually making it to heaven.
Perhaps that’s the answer to why Calvinists have children: they haven’t thought through the implications of their beliefs…
But what odds would you accept when the alternatives are heaven and eternal torment in hell? Would a 90% chance of heaven – because of good teaching and good friends – be acceptable? And how would you estimate the odds anyway?
Forty years ago, when we had our first child, and in most of the years that followed I wasn’t thinking about such things, but now I am thinking, so I am puzzled – to say the least – as to why Calvinists have children.
For myself, I have realised that the God who “So loved the world that He gave his only Son…” to die for us, is not some kind of vengeful monster who would condemn unbelievers to torment in hell because he had not elected them to believe.
“God so loved the world that He gave his only Son…” to die for us – John 3:16
No! The Father, who Jesus showed us through his life amongst us, and atoning death and resurrection, has gone to great lengths to reconcile us all to himself, to save us from the kingdom of darkness, which is hell on earth, and in the end to bring us eternally into his wonderful presence. A few may refuse this and end up in some kind of outer darkness, but this will be their decision – or maybe the result of many decisions in their respective lives on earth – not God’s capricious election.
So I now have full confidence in our children’s future; maybe I always had that confidence but articulated it differently.
But I still don’t understand the Calvinists.